So much happening all bunched together, that I have had no time to blog – how do those professional bloggers do it, and earn their living as well?. So a quick few points on high speed rail and the PPP, but most of it will be in my next Rail column.
As David has commented on a previous thread, the Tories’ reaction to the high speed rail announcement suggests they really are not fit to govern. The idea of debunking a very thorough report which they refused to view in advance and therefore had no time to read shows a level of crass opportunism which puts even New Labour to shame.
My recent dealings with the Tories confirms that they are in a real mess. I was asked by the New Statesman to do a big set piece interview with Theresa Villiers for a pre-election issue. I then proceeded to ring her office every day for a week, left messages but never received a call back. I was then given the name of a press officer at Central Office who, again, never returned my calls and then decided to turn the interview request down but when I pressed him as to the reason, it was clear that he had never even asked her.
I was then given the name of her chief of staff, Paul Foote, and spoke to him. He told me that she was too busy to decide as it was the week of the high speed announcement, but he did at least come back to me. Eventually, after I rang him again on Friday after the announcement, he left a message saying that the interview would, after all, not be possible.
Frankly, I am speechless. While conceivably the Tories might be reluctant to talk to a left of centre magazine, one would have thought that they would have enough confidence about their ideas to give the interview. It might even have got them some publicity. But worse was the incompetence. For it to take more than two weeks, and about 15 phone calls for me to get an answer out of them suggests they really have no idea. If they had told me straight away to f off, I might have had some respect for them. Gutless and guiless seem to be the most apposite advjectives.
One quick point on the High Speed announcement and the PPP decision. It is very interesting that the high speed report is critical of the very notion of PPPs for such a complex building project. It points to the Dutch High Speed line which ended up being two years late because of contractual wrangles. The obvious question is why that logic was not applied to the PPP in the first place. Or have I missed something?